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Burgerschap en humanisering van de publieke sector

Inter-Generational Holocaust Research – Trauma & Resilience from an Existential Perspective

This research is based on an interview collection that contains interviews with three generations of the Dutch Jewish community about the legacy of the Holocaust in their family in terms of trauma, resilience, and meaning in life. The project is led by Prof. Dr. Nicole Immler and Dr. Carmen Schuhmann. 


Students from the University of Humanistic Studies, trained as spiritual counselors (chaplains), conducted in-depth qualitative interviews under supervision of Nicole Immler, Carmen Schuhmann and Wander van der Vaart. The research consists of 36 qualitative life-story interviews (11 families of 3 generations), interviewed with narrative methodology and the use of a Life History Calendar.

Holocaust research tends to concentrate on trauma, with the possibility of intergenerational transmission having been discussed for decades with no consensus yet. This collection of family interviews (the first in the Netherlands) explores in addition to trauma, experiences of resilience as well. Resilience has only recently become a topical issue: resilience research is an emerging interdisciplinary field of study concerning adaptive processes in the context of adversity. Attention has been drawn to bodily, (inter)personal and social dimensions of resilience processes, but the existential/moral dimension of resilience connected to people's search for meaning in life is still understudied. Recent research on moral injury points to the importance of this dimension, but while moral injury research is hitherto mainly confined to the military context, we translate it to the Holocaust field.

Several specific UvH expertises are brought together in a multidisciplinary approach (oral history, memory studies, spiritual counseling, meaning in life) in order to challenge the dominance of psychological studies, by taking more account of relational, situated and moral-existential aspects.

For example, exploring the multiple I-positions the respondents have and the links to the different we-communities they belong to, enables a critical examination of the overly  simple identity constructions fed by today’s identity politics. In scholarly and public debate trauma (vulnerability) is mostly seen as antithesis to resilience. First research results show that we have to look beyond this simplified contrast as people can be both resilient and vulnerable. Moreover, resilience is not what people ‘have’ but is a situated experience or a relational process. Current analysis of the data is elaboratinon this.

Based on this data set we also teach, as explained in this article: Nicole L. Immler (2018), Oral History und Narrative Theorie: Vom Erzählen lernen. BIOS Zeitschrift für Biographieforschung, Oral History und Lebensverlaufsanalysen, 2018 (1), 135-149.

Our data set has been included in the Dutch national network of oral history 'Sprekende Geschiedenis'. See:

This ‘concept cloud’ shows the different ways in which we are looking at the data.


Prof. Dr. Nicole L. Immler

Dr. Carmen Schuhmann

Limor Reshef (Junior researcher)

See also

The interviews are archived at DANS/KNAW: Carmen Schuhmann, Nicole L. Immler (2018): Trauma & Resilience: Intergenerational Holocaust research from an existential perspective.

For results/publications, see:

For other generational research see:

  • Nicole L. Immler (2021). Het slavernijverleden als erfenis. Filosofie Magazine Wijsgerig Perspectief, Thema Nummer: Generatie [in Dutch].
  • Nicole L. Immler (2016), 'Gefühltes (Un-)Recht im Familiengedächtnis. Zum Aspekt der „Generation“ in der Entschädigungspolitik' (read via ResearchGate). In: Drei Generationen. Shoah und Nationalsozialismus im Familiengedächtnis, ed. by Martha Keil, Philipp Mettauer, Studienverlag, 101-138.

This research is based upon an interview collection that contains three generation interviews with members of the Dutch Jewish community about the legacy of the Holocaust in their family in terms of trauma, resilience, and meaning in life.